A List of College GIS Certificate Programs in Canada

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Last Updated: Oct 11, 2017

So many GIS certificate programs to choose from, eh

You can’t discount going to a college or technology institute to earn your very own college GIS diploma.

You get the practical skills employers are looking for like GIS programming, remote sensing and even surveying. This means you are better-positioned to learn faster, which is crucial in today’s world.

There are some great schools in Canada – COGS, BCIT are stand-outs. But there’s really so many to choose from, eh? Today, we list off GIS certificate colleges in Canada that will pave the way for your very own GIS career path.

British Columbia

British Columbia

Beautiful British Columbia offers college GIS certificate programs from the following institutes:

  • British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Advanced Diploma Program in GIS
  • Selkirk College Advanced GIS Diploma
  • Vancouver Island University (VIU) Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications
  • Simon Fraser University Certificate in Spatial Information Systems
  • Okanagan College Advanced GIS Certificate

1 British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT)




If you are serious about learning GIS and developing your skills, then you should go to the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

People have nothing but good things to say about BCIT’s Advanced GIS Diploma program. Its intense schedule and classes help you achieve well-rounded skills. The work based practicum boosts your CV. It’s highly regarded by employers in Canada.

If you can’t make it to class, you have the online education route. Although face-to-face program delivery can give you the necessary feedback, especially in labs and programming – online education will give you the much needed self-discipline and motivation to complete the Advanced GIS certificate.

2 Vancouver Island University (VIU)

Learn face-to-face in Nanaimo, British Columbia in VIU’s Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications. Alternatively, online classes could be spread out for more convenience. No matter what, in the end you earn an advanced GIS diploma.

Both options help students secure full-time employment in the field of GIS. As with the other GIS programs, training is concentrated in ArcGIS, the most popular GIS software in the world.

VIU now offers an intriguing Masters GIS program as well.

3 Selkirk College

You should take a close look at what Selkirk College has to offer. They combine classroom study with coop or personally developed project. It’s possible to extend the Advanced GIS Diploma to a Bachelor in GIS.

Their lab is modern with dedicated workstations. The Applied Geospatial Research Center is attached to the college. The pristine British Columbia Kootenays area is beautiful, if you like to hike or ski.

4 Simon Fraser University

Get certified with a Certificate in Spatial Information Systems at Simon Fraser University.

How is SIS different than GIS? It tackles a wider array of spatial-related fields. SIS includes Geographic Information Science; spatial analysis and modeling; geo-visualization; geospatial interface research; remote sensing; and mobile networks.

Put data in a geographical context with this modern approach to spatial entity information.

5 Okanagan College

The Okanagan College is located in beautiful Kelowna, BC with campuses in Penticton and Vernon. The Salmon Arm hosts the campus for GIS studies.

For the Okanagan College Advanced GIS Certificate, students have to complete not one, but two projects of their own direction. This prepares students for employment opportunities.

The Prairies

Prairies

The Prairie Provinces consisting of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have the following options to obtain a diploma or certificate in GIS:

  • Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Bachelor of Applied Technology Geographic Information Systems
  • Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Geographic Information Technology Certificate
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic Geographic Information Science for Resource Management Certificate
  • Red River College (RRC) Advanced GIS Technology Certificate
  • Assiniboine Community College (ACC) GIS Advanced Diploma

1 Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT)




If you live in the southern part of Alberta or anywhere really, you should consider enrolling in their Bachelor of GIS program.

It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with Esri ArcGIS, which is the leading GIS software in the industry. The GIS program practicum is rumored to be a challenge, as it can be difficult to find one. Same goes for its intense time commitment as students need to spend vast amounts of time in campus.

GIS Data Management Certificate of Achievement claims a 100% employment rate, which is impressive. BGIS graduates will often work in teams of various sizes.

2 Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT)

The NAIT program is geared to the whole industry and practice of GIS with classes from ArcGIS to project management and industry best practices. Their Geographic Information Technology Certificate is one of a kind.

What’s unique about the NAIT GIS program is the delivery in both Geomedia and ArcGIS. The classes are unique and interesting. It has web mapping with open source GIS software and even Oracle spatial fundamentals courses.

3 Saskatchewan Polytechnic

The Geographic Information Science for Resource Management Certificate is a one-year certificate program offered full time at Saskatchewan Polytechnic Prince Albert campus.

This program gives you the hands-on learning and practical experience that employers are looking for from GIS graduates. The field experience is also something unique to the program. 80% of GIS grads find jobs after six months of graduation working as mapping technicians, GIS specialists, cartographers and other titles.

4 Red River College (RRC)

The Advanced GIS Technology diploma at Red River College is a one-year intense program. It combines a mix of remote sensing, cartography, GIS modeling, CAD and other courses to build your knowledge in GIS.

It also connects students with potential employers through a thesis research project. This gives students a taste of how GIS is being used in the industry. However, you need a Bachelor’s Degree to get in this program as a prerequisite.

5 Assiniboine Community College (ACC)

Available through distance education and face-to-face, the Assiniboine College GIS Advanced Diploma is chosen by many Manitobans as a sure way to get the GIS knowledge they need.

With approximately 93% of grads finding employment in their field, the courses cover everything from image analysis to spatial statistics. It’s interesting to see a precision agriculture techniques course in the curriculum which shows how big agriculture is an industry in Manitoba.

Ontario

The largest province in terms of population, Ontario, has a plethora of options to earn a certificate in Geographic Information Systems. Here they are in no particular order:

Ontario

  • Ryerson Certificate in Applied Digital Geography and GIS
  • Queen University Certificate in Geographic Information Science
  • York University Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Remote Sensing
  • Fleming College Geographic Information Systems Cartographic Specialist
  • Niagara College GIS Certificate
  • Algonquin College GIS Graduate Certificate
  • Sault College Geographic Information Systems Applications Specialist
  • University of Waterloo Diploma of Excellence in GIS
  • Ontario Learns GIS Certificate (Humber College, Durham College, George Brown College, Seneca College, Centennial College, Mohawk College)

1 Ryerson University

There’s nothing but positive about Ryerson’s Certificate in Applied Digital Geography and GIS. It balances conceptual and practical training with lectures and laboratory learning environments. Ryerson’s Certificate in Applied Digital Geography and GIS is well-recognized in the GIS industry. It also offers distance education as this certification is primarily designed for part-time students.

Ryerson helps you accelerate your GIS job probabilities by earning the right amount of hands-on experience. Essentially, you build the right foundation to get your foot in the door. The distance learning option is also available for students who can’t make it to campus with busy lives.

2 Queen’s University

The Certificate in Geographic Information Science delivers a thorough understanding of cartography, remote sensing and GIS techniques. In addition to completing a degree, Queen’s University students can also achieve a Certificate in Geographic Information Science. All undergraduate students regardless of their degree concentration is eligible to pursue the Certificate in Geographic Sciences.

Queen’s University’s GIScience certification give you a blueprint to a career in GIS. You build a wealth of practical knowledge and GIS uses and applications in the workplace. This program understands how GIS is becoming an affordable technology that can be integrated in nearly every corporation, governmental agency, or non-profit organization.

3 Fanshawe College

Fanshawe College’s Certificate in Geographic Information Systems has both traditional and online classroom options. It’s an eight-month program to help students master the concepts of GIS, remote sensing, GIS programming, spatial analysis and modeling, photogrammetry, web mapping and CAD.

The program is project-based, software-intensive, interdisciplinary, and focused on building flexible, current, high-end applied skills. Students require their own laptop in this GIS certificate program. It teaches everything from the theory behind GIS to grasp an understanding of the important fundamentals. You will also get the hands-on skills to help you strive in the GIS industry.

4 York University

Get certified by York University’s Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Remote Sensing. This program understands that together GIS and remote sensing are the backbone to many decision-making systems and location-based services emerging in the decades to come.

York University is far more in-depth. Its heavy loaded in remote sensing which is a good thing. Satellite data is becoming more abundant and free to the whole world. York University’s GIS program puts you in the right path for your own career in the field of GIS and remote sensing.

5 Fleming College

There’s a lot to like about Fleming College’s GIS programs. You can walk away from this program, with the right skills for spatial decision-making in the real-world.

The Cartographic Specialist program takes 3 semesters to complete, covering everything from geo-visualization to web communication. The last semester puts you into a GIS collaborative project, where you make working relationships with partners and provide a real-world GIS deliverable. There’s nothing better than making those contacts that can lead you to a GIS career.

The 10-month post-graduate GIS Applications Specialist program helps students learn how to use sophisticated tools to collect, store, manipulate, analyze and interpret GIS within a variety of disciplines. This program is offered online while getting the same experience as on-campus students.

6 Niagara College

Niagara College offers a one-year GIS post graduate certificate, where you get hands-on experience working in GIS and GIS-related subjects. But it also teaches you the concepts and skills that you will use every day.

The thesis is a full year in length. You get placed in a workplace with employers to design and implement a real-world GIS project. This also helps you develop networks with people in the field.

7 Sault College

In Sault Ste. Marie, you can find Sault College. Their GIS certification program is the Geographic Information Systems Applications Specialist. The courses are very relevant, with programming and research projects as their central theme. And learning programming (especially) as early as possible is one of the best investments you can make for yourself.

With workable objectives, a certificate at Sault College puts you on solid ground to a career path in GIS.

8 University of Waterloo

The Diploma of Excellence in GIS at the University of Waterloo seems a bit bare with only five classes.

Just a warning that you may not be able to grasp all the important concepts with just databases, spatial analysis, management issues, and an introduction to GIS. It might look good on your CV, but in all practicality, this program needs more core courses like programming, remote sensing and CAD.

9 Algonquin College

The GIS Graduate Certificate Program at Algonquin College is a three semester program with the option for a co-op. Students need a university degree or 2-3 years from a college diploma program to enter the program.

It gives the best of all aspects of GIS – cartographic design, application and modeling and remote sensing. Classes are offered in the classroom and in the lab.

10 Ontario Learns GIS Certificate

You might think I should list off each one of these colleges as their own separate number in this list.

…But in reality, they ARE the exact same program.

It’s the GIS diploma in a tin can. Without the prestige as the other GIS certificate programs offered in Ontario, each of these programs you’re going to be taking the same eight courses, and you may even be using dated GIS software to top things off.

Here are the courses you are going to get in the Ontario Learns GIS Certificate program: Microsoft Access Specialist, Microsoft Access Expert, Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, Designing/Implementing/Managing a GIS, GIS Software – ArcView, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Remote Sensing and Internet Mapping.

If you eat, sleep and breathe GIS (like GISGeography.com), then you’re not going to enjoy the Ontario Learns GIS certificate program.

The colleges that offer the Ontario Learns GIS Certificate are Humber College, George Brown College, Seneca College, Centennial College, Mohawk College and Durham College.

The Maritimes

Maritimes

The Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland) have a bit less to offer in college GIS certificate programs. But it does offer one of the most recognized programs in all of Canada, the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS):

  • Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences
  • New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) Geographic Information Systems Certificate

1 Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS)

Employers in the industry know which schools have better reputations, and hire accordingly. COGS has cemented itself in one of the top spots for GIS certification. Its history traces back to 1948.

COGS used to be its own college, then became part of Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). You might have to move a distance to attend because COGS is located in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia. But it’s well worth it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, COGS Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences is a definite 10. Furthermore, it has a two-year Diploma in Geographic Sciences for those who directly enter from high school and people with unrelated degrees.

2 Dalhousie University

Nova Scotia is home to two incredible GIS diploma programs. As part of the Certificate in Geographic Information Science at Dalhousie University, students must complete 2 mandatory courses (Geoscience Information Management and GIS Applications to Environmental and Geological Science) and must select 2 other courses from a list of others. For example, the Space, Place and GIS course has students learn to use GIS to address land use and site planning issues even in regards to examining legal, privacy, and ethical implications of using GIS data in the public realm.

All courses set the standard of B to complete. But the heart and soul of this program lies in the research project, as independent work from the student. The research project focus is the methodological and organizational design, the application of appropriate GIS techniques, and proper reporting of the results.

Dalhousie University has a strong reputation in terms of universities in Canada – it dates back to 1818. This program is no exception as it’s high on the list for teaching students the necessary skills on how to design, manage and employ methods in Geographic Information Science (GIS).

Thanks to James Boxall for the suggestion!

3 Memorial University (MUN)

Memorial University offers a Diploma Program in Geographic Information Sciences (GISciences) located in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Students have to be registered in a Bachelor of Arts or Science Degree program.

What I like most of MUN’s GIScience diploma program is the wealth of knowledge you’ll get for practical GIS applications. This is why the program requires students to complete two instructional field placement courses. Students can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom into real-life situations.

Hat tip to commenter SP for suggesting Memorial University.

4 New Brunswick Community College (NBCC)

Update: As of 2004, the GIS Post-Diploma Technology Program is no longer part of NBCC.

The New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) GIS Post-Diploma Technology Program used to be all the buzz. Back in 2006, Esri presented the college with an award of excellence for their Post-Diploma in GIS, and college graduates were extremely successful at finding meaningful careers in GIS.

NBCC is quiet as of late, and it’s unclear whether or not their program still exists – as it’s not listed in their college GIS certificate listings.

Thanks to CanadianGIS for the tip.

9 Comments

  1. I actually want to enroll for a master’s program in GIS, all I’m seeing here is post diploma certificate and so on, are they equally thesame because I’m confused.

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